EDITORIAL: Future looks bright for drone usage

Recent test run on Mount Finlayson gave Langford a glimpse at how devices can help in emergencies

All unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, are not created equal. While flying a hobby store model for fun or filming one’s recreational activities from a unique angle, for example, will continue to grow in popularity, the industrial uses of UAVs have us excited to see what comes next.

Langford Fire Rescue was given a taste of the potential effectiveness of UAVs last weekend when firefighters were called to haul yet another fallen hiker off Mount Finlayson – that’s eight this year, and counting.

Commercial operator David Carlos flew his camera-equipped aircraft during the rescue. He was making his first flight over the mountain and helped mainly to chart out a safe escape route for emergency responders. But he adapted quickly and vowed to have a better feel for the terrain and layout next time, should locating a lost or injured hiker be more of an issue.

It illustrated how UAVs can be a critical piece of equipment to help make such operations safer for all involved.

While UAVs and their crude prototypes have been around for a while, we’re just now finding out how they can best be put to commercial use. Carlos, who holds a certificate from Transport Canada that gives him permission to operate his UAV for specified commercial purposes, has had to notify officials of any planned flight 20 days ahead of time.

Aware that being called in rescue situations might happen more frequently, he recently asked Transport Canada for the OK to fly at a moment’s’ notice – as when asked to help out in an emergency situation, for example. He got a thumbs up and was told to file his flight information immediately afterwards.

Sounds to us like Transport Canada is willing to loosen the reins for people who have proven to be reliable and trustworthy with UAV use. As with any new technology, it takes a while for the humans in charge to catch up and create policies that make sense in the real world.

Transport Canada guidelines seem to indicate that they have given plenty of thought to the multitude of uses of such vehicles, from single-propeller, lightweight recreational models to multi-prop aircraft controllable at long range and capable of reaching high speeds and altitude.

We like that a government agency appears to be using logic and common sense to determine the best way forward and that local agencies might one day have another valuable tool in their toolbox.

And while stories of inappropriate use of remote-controlled aircraft have hogged attention in recent years, the positive uses of this emerging technology are more interesting to us.

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